By Steve Guntli
Blaine City Council is taking another stab for an Amtrak station in Blaine.
At the regular council meeting on January 26, Mayor Harry Robinson and councilmember Bonnie Onyon said they had met with the representatives from the city of White Rock earlier that day to discuss the train stop.
“We’re hoping we can build a relationship with them,” Onyon said. “The stop would be used primarily by Canadians, so it would be providing a service for them.”
The council believes having a train stop in Blaine would provide a valuable service for the more than 750,000 people living south of the Fraser River. People in southern B.C. who need to commute to Seattle or Portland by train must drive up to Vancouver and board the train there, which can be time-consuming and expensive. Having a station in Blaine would ease some of those concerns.
The first step, though, is determining how many people would use the station, and how much it would cost.
“We’re just beginning the sessions,” Onyon said. “We’d need to shell out some money for a study and get an idea of ridership.”
Onyon said the council has reached out to the cities of White Rock and Surrey to help cover some of the costs of a study, and those cities seemed receptive to contributing.
This isn’t the first time the council has considered a Blaine train station. Local groups pushed for the station back in early 2012 to stimulate the local economy and preserve the century-old train station on Marine Drive. The project had momentum in 2012, but talks with White Rock and Surrey stagnated.
“It’s a long process,” Onyon said. “Those wheels move very slowly when you’re working with multiple agencies. But we’re talking about doing a study, and our talks have never gotten that far before, so we’re serious about pursuing this.”
The station has fallen into disrepair over the years. Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF), the current owner of the station, has expressed interest in demolishing the building. However, several local figures consider the station to be a historical landmark and would like to see it restored.
The Washington Trust for Historic Preservation included the site on its list of endangered properties in 2012.
According to Chris Moore, executive director of the trust, most historic train stations are converted into restaurants or museums, but restoring the Blaine station to its original function would be a smart use of the property.
Onyon said she had spoken to representatives at BNSF, who indicated they might be willing to part with the station for a nominal fee.
Robinson believes the station could be a valuable asset to the city.
“It’s like the Bellingham Airport,” he said. “We’d be capturing that group of people who are close to the border and have business on either side.”
Robinson emphasized any station built would be years away.
“We’re very, very early in this process,” he said. “It’s going to be an involved subject, and we’ll have to give serious thought to a full study on why we should have a stop here in Blaine.”